Rural people have room for improvement when it comes to welcoming newcomers, according to a research report that involved interviewing 202 people in Huron, Dufferin and Northumberland counties.
The report also outlines what can be done to improve, including intentional county policies, posting more information on county government websites, providing English-as-a-second-language classes, and rides to appointments, school and jobs.
“We can do better by understanding our history, being more welcoming, and providing those networks that have always helped people survive and be successful here because we sometimes have the narrative of the self-made pioneer who came with nothing but in truth, they always had community support, the support of their church, the support of their family,” says Sinead Cox of Huron County Museum.
“So we as a community need to continue to provide those things.”
Andrew Bartley of Platinum Leadership said “we witnessed gracious appreciation for – and the abundant gratitude of – newcomers in all three counties.”
A service provider in Huron County is quoted in the report saying “you need to take them under your wing.
“Introduce them, make them feel welcomed because there is isolation
“It’s the women that suffer most, the wives. Children integrate once they star school. Husband is working.”
Immigrants were not the only newcomers interviewed. They also talked to people who moved from elsewhere in Canada and to some who moved back after being away for a long time.
Newcomers were defined as people who moved in within the last five years.
Norman Rogatie, the director of policy and stakeholder engagement for the study, which was done for the Rural institute of Ontario, writes that it was “by no means a scientific process.”
My wife and I have worked with newcomers for decades and can heartily endorse the comments of the Huron County service provider.
One thing that's missing from the report is the discrimination that many newcomers experience from a significant number of community members. We like to think we are a tolerant society, but many of our neighbours are not.